Earlier this week, Democratic leaders in the State Senate circulated several proposed changes to the law, offering to give judges more discretion in deciding whether to keep accused criminals in jail.
Those proposals surprised and incensed members of the Democrat-dominated Assembly, exposing a schism in the party ranks, which just a year ago was reveling in big wins in the 2018 elections and a succession of long-sought progressive policies.
…For reformers, the changes to the bail law were long overdue and deeply important: The new law would mean that thousands of people in jail awaiting trial would be released, allowing them to return home, safeguard jobs and families and maintain stability in communities decimated by decades of incarceration.
With bail eliminated for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies, an estimated 90 percent of new defendants each year in New York would remain free as their cases move through the courts.
But opponents — including many police chiefs and county district attorneys — argued that the law was overly permissive and potentially dangerous, allowing the quick release of defendants on a variety of serious charges, including types of stalking, assault, burglary, drug offenses, arson and robbery.
…Democratic leaders have pushed back, but fear of potential political damage to moderate lawmakers on Long Island seemed to undergird the new Senate proposal, which was reported in Newsday.
Under it, the state would completely eradicate cash bail and set a roster of serious crimes and circumstances under which judges could still jail defendants; those accused of almost all misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies would continue to be exempt. But judges would be given the discretion to jail persistent offenders and those deemed likely to harm someone.
…Other supporters have suggested that the opponents of the new law are racially motivated, noting that a Facebook page devoted to repealing the law has been peppered with anti-immigrant sentiment and offensive comments about lawmakers from minority groups.
Some also accuse prosecutors of missing the leverage they held in the old bail system.
…”All of the sudden, district attorneys can’t just force somebody to sit in a cell because they can’t afford their bail and then push them to plead out on some garbage.”